Lyft to Begin Operations in Toronto, Its First Market Outside the U.S.


Lyft has high hopes for the Toronto market. John Zimmer, the company’s president and co-founder, told the Toronto Star that he expected the Canadian city to eventually become one of Lyft’s five largest markets.

In an effort to entice drivers, Lyft is offering a 25 percent bonus for the first 3,000 drivers who are approved and who complete 20 rides a week during the company’s first three months of operation in Toronto.

Lyft made its announcement just hours after Uber completed a deal to sell a stake to the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank, a move that paves the way for sweeping governance changes at the ride-hailing behemoth, as well as for that company’s own initial public offering.

Uber has been trying to repair its image, with Dara Khosrowshahi, the new chief executive, pushing a softer tone and a set of cultural values that includes the maxim, “We do the right thing. Period.”

Uber, which began operating in Toronto five years ago, has faced resistance in Canada. Taxi drivers have protested against the company for not adhering to the same rules as the taxi industry. Toronto city officials at one point sought to ban Uber, but Ontario’s Superior Court refused that request in 2015.

The company suffered a setback last week in London, when a British employment tribunal rejected its argument that the company’s drivers were self-employed. The ruling, upholding an earlier court judgment, threatens Uber’s hiring model in Britain.

That decision came after London’s transport regulator in September revoked Uber’s license to operate in the British capital, its biggest market outside of the United States, saying that the company was not “fit and proper” to operate there. Uber is appealing the ruling, and can continue to operate in London until the appeals process is completed.

Lyft, by contrast, has so far limited its expansion to the United States. The company has, however, had several meetings with London transport officials, according to documents published by Transport for London, the city’s transportation authority. Lyft has given presentations about its business model and discussed the London mayor’s transport strategy, raising the prospect that it could seek to expand there as well.

The company has tried to project a friendlier image to distinguish itself from Uber. Speaking to the Toronto Star, Mr. Zimmer said the company was focused on “treating people well.”

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